Students at Duke University, a school known for their winning basketball program, occupied an administrative building Friday to demand that three school officials resign after the vice president allegedly called a parking attendant a racial slur. Before a football game against Elon University in 2014, Executive Vice President Tallman Trask hit a parking attendant with his Porsche and called her “dumb, dumb, stupid n—–.”
According to Duke’s The Chronicle, Shelvia Underwood, of McLaurin Parking and Transportation, filed a police report with the campus department days after the incident. She then retracted it out of fear of losing her job when Trask sent her an apology note stating he “very much” regrets the incident and that he “should have been more patient.”
Trask initially denied that he hit Underwood but then admitted to it once he was presented with the signed note. He still denies that he used a racial slur against the parking attendant.
Underwood, who visited the hospital after the incident because of pain in her arm, filed a lawsuit against Trask and Duke University last month. She is asking for $25,000 in compensatory damages for each count – battery, negligence, civil conspiracy and obstruction of justice – totaling $100,000.
Friday’s protest took place in Duke’s Allen Building, where nine students launched a sit-in saying they wouldn’t leave until Trask resigned. It follows another protest the same day where students gathered at a bus stop demanding the removal of Trask, Vice President for Administration Kyle Cavanaugh and director of Parking and Transportation Services Carl DePinto. Students also had a list of demands that called for an independent investigation into the Trask incident and reforms in hiring practices, along with the resignations. As of Monday morning, students were still occupying the building to speak with the administration about reforms. The Allen Building is closed except to allow faculty to enter.
The protest highlights the broader issue of racism and discrimination at this and other college campuses. USA Today reports that protests against racism have been launched at several schools over the years. A sit-in at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. called for the renaming of two campus buildings that were named after university presidents who authorized the sale of enslaved people. Atlanta Black Students United Coalition – made up of students at Georgia State University, Morehouse College and Emory University – marched for national equality on college campuses.